Bill to invest in technical education nears finish line

Bill to invest in technical education close to passing

New Mexico House Bill 5 would invest in career technical education for jobs that don't require a degree and it is close to passing.

SANTA FE, N.M. — With a week left in this year’s legislative session, a bipartisan bill to invest in technical education in New Mexico is still advancing.

House Bill 5 would invest in career technical education for jobs that don’t require a college degree. That entails jobs like welders, contractors and electricians – all needed in our state.

“What it does is it’ll provide an enhanced funding stream for the Apprenticeship Assistance Act, which relates to paying for technical education for our 50 programs,” said Joy Garratt, one of the bill’s sponsors.

The goal of the bill is to expand apprenticeships in our state so more people can find success in these industries.

People like Ron Ayers. The trades industry wasn’t his first career path but he took a chance four years ago.

“I started out in the field, working hands-on and then school started and it’s been tough,” Ayers said.

Now, Ayers is an apprentice.

“I have one more year to complete before I’m a full-fledged union journeyman,” he said.

Until then, he is still earning money while he learns the skills he needs.

“An apprenticeship is the key to getting quality tradesmen or tradeswomen in this industry. I mean, the education component is immeasurable. There are things that you just can’t learn about electrical without some classroom instruction,” Ayers said. “The things we learn we actually go in the field and we do them every day and that learning is you can’t compete with that. And when you add the two together, it’s the quickest the best way to get the most education.”

If House Bill 5 passes, it would create a trust fund of $50 million to expand and fund more apprenticeships in New Mexico for trades industry jobs.

The bill has received industry support, including from a few contractor associations.

“We use that Apprenticeship Assistance Act funding to help supplement and to help retain and attract quality instructors. We use it to help upgrade our facilities, implement technology and make sure we are providing the best quality instruction for which we’re held accountable to. And we need some extra help from the state to be able to do that.”

Both lawmakers and supporters say it isn’t just students straight out of high school who will benefit from these apprenticeships. It’s also anyone willing to go into this growing industry.

“You have people who are now changing their career, and they can’t afford to start all over, going to college or going to school, not getting an income with an apprenticeship. You are actually working and earning a paycheck while you’re learning and getting ready for your license,” Ayers said.

House Bill 5 passed the House in a 63-5 vote. Now, it heads to the Senate Finance Committee where they will discuss funding the bill.

Track the bill here.